Myanmar tour operators learn to use online marketing to boost business performance
More than two dozen tour operators in Myanmar have sharpened their marketing skills and stepped up their competitiveness after participating in a website enhancement and online marketing workshop.
The training, held on 12-13 May in Yangon and followed by individual coaching sessions from 14-16 May, was organized by the International Trade Centre (ITC) in collaboration with the Union of Myanmar Travel Association (UMTA) and Myanmar Tourism Marketing (MTM). The activities were carried out within the framework of ITC’s Netherlands Trust Fund (NTF) III Myanmar inclusive tourism project.
NTF III Myanmar is designed to promote job creation and export competitiveness in the country’s tourism sector, with a special focus on Kayah State. The project seeks to reach these goals by integrating local suppliers into the tourism value chain and helping inbound tour operators in Myanmar develop inclusive tour packages with niche destinations, such as Kayah State.
The training and coaching aimed to improve the international business performance of 25 small and medium-sized enterprises in Myanmar’s tourism industry – as well as their support organizations – by honing their online marketing skills. The trainers were experienced international tourism online-marketing experts from the Netherlands and South Africa.
Myanmar’s tourism sector is in a crucial stage of growth, and local tourism businesses need exposure to key foreign markets to take advantage of this opportunity. Online promotion is considered the best marketing tool with the highest return on investment for providers of tourism services.
The two-day workshop focused on tools and techniques to empower tour operators in Myanmar to compete with the bigger players in rival destinations, and to sell directly to end-consumers through their websites. Well-optimized online content and social media communities offer affordable and targeted access to both local and foreign tour operators and partners.
Participants agreed that one of their major challenges is clearly identifying and promoting the unique value proposition of their business, which should form the foundation of their online marketing strategies.
The workshop underscored that the best opportunities for improvement lie in both the strategy – identifying priority customers and focusing on conversion – and the ‘findability’ in search engines such as Google. The use of social media marketing is still in its infancy in Myanmar’s tourism sector.
The training addressed these challenges, showing participants how better understanding of online marketing tools and standards can develop skills.
The workshop paid off in many ways, according to participants. Several welcomed the practical and interactive way the modules were presented, saying this format encouraged businesses to apply the knowledge to their own situations, rather than just listening to theory.
‘I got a lot of good information and new ideas,’ said Eetu Parviainen of Discovery DMC. ‘Also, it was a good reminder course about marketing in general. You are doing a great job sharing information about the complex world of Internet marketing in places that really need it.’
Each participant was able to attend an individual coaching session with the trainers, to discuss the action plan developed during the workshop, and to put together a road map and timeline to improve their websites. The individual sessions added unique value to the programme, as they provided an opportunity to identify and discuss the competitive advantages of each company, and for the trainers to offer personalized recommendations on how to promote those advantages online.
‘Your workshop enlightened us [about] heat maps, smart usage of images, benefits of blogging, the importance of unique content marketing, the need to get fans involved and the importance of videos,’ said Sonny Amo of Tourism Myanmar. ‘I appreciate that you spent two more hours with close coaching for our website. My staff and I will be revamping our website as per your coaching – and please let us get more advice and ideas from you.’
Distant coaching via Skype and e-mail will ensure sufficient follow-up and support.